Lele language (Chad)

Lele is an East Chadic language spoken in the Tandjilé Region, in the Tandjilé Ouest department, south of Kélo.[1]

Native toChad
Native speakers
(26,000 cited 1991)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3lln



Lele has five underlying vowels. The mid vowels are lower mid rather than higher mid. All vowels may have long variants.[2]

IPA Chart for Vowels of Lele
  Front Central Back
High [i] [u]
Mid [e] [o]
Low [a]


There are some asymmetries in Lele's consonant inventory.

Lele consonants
Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-velar Glottal
Nasal [m] [n] [ɲ] [ŋ]
Plosive voiceless [p] [t] [k] [kp]
voiced [b] [d] [ɡ] [ɡb]
implosive [ɓ] [ɗ]
prenasalized [mb] [nd] [ŋb]
Fricative [s] [h]
Trill [r]
Approximant central [w] [j]
lateral [l]



Nouns are grammatically masculine or feminine, but there are no morphological markings of gender on the nouns.[2]: 55  This distinction is only seen in the agreement system (covert gender). Only a subset of nouns are marked for plural: large animals, kinship terms and a few inanimate objects. Plurals nouns are marked in a variety of ways including a suffix /-e/ or /-we/ and an infix /-a-/.[2]: 56  There are three nouns that have irregular plural forms: "woman", "hen" and "person".[2]: 58 

There is a grammatical distinction between alienable and inalienable possession in the noun phrase. In inalienable possession, a singular possessor is marked by a suffix on the noun indexing the possessor (possessor agreement suffix). In plural inalienable possession and all alienable, the possessor is indexed by a pronominal word following the noun.[2]: 61 


The tense-aspect-mood system includes four verbal forms labeled "past", "future", "nominal" and "imperative". The "past" form normally has a stem-final vowel /i/. The "future" and "nominal" forms both have a stem-final vowel /e/. They are distinguished from each other by a high tone on the first syllable of the "future" form. The imperative form normally has a stem-final vowel /a/ or /u/.[2]: 44 

Some verbs also have a plural form indicated by a suffix /-wi/ or a devoiced initial consonant. The plural form of the verb can indicate the plurality of an action, a plural intransitive subject, or a plural object.[2]: 124  Verbs can also be modified by adverbs, including a class of ideophones,[2]: 164  by a "ventive" marker (derived from the verb "come") following the verb, or an "inceptive" marker (derived from the verb "leave") preceding the verb.


The reference system makes a 10-way distinction. Gender is distinguished in second and third person singular pronouns. The first person non-singular pronouns include a dual inclusive form, a plural inclusive form, and a plural exclusive form. The plural inclusive form is a bimorphemic pronoun which combines the first person dual inclusive form with the second person plural form.[2]: 100 

Word orderEdit

In a pragmatically neutral sentence, nominal arguments occur in a SVO word order. However, third person subject pronouns usually follow the verb.


  1. ^ a b Lele at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Frajzyngier, Zygmunt (2001). A Grammar of Lele. Stanford, California: CSLI Publications.


Cope, Pamela Simons. 1993. The plural in Lele. JWAL 23(1)

Cope, Pamela Simons and Donald A. Burquest. 1986. Some comments on nasalization in Lele. JWAL 16(2)

Cope; Pamela Simons. 2010. Dictionnaire lélé-français : suivi d'un index français-lélé : essai de description lexicale de la langue tchadique parlée dans la région de Kélo, Tchad, L'Harmattan, Paris, 163 p. (ISBN 978-2-296-10335-1)

Frajzyngier, Zygmunt. 1995. Two complementizers in Lele. In Ibriszimow, Dymitr and Leger, Rudolf (eds.), Studia chadica et hamitosemitica: Akten des internationalen Symposions zur Tschadsprachenforschung Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, 6.-8. Mai 1991, 163-170. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Frajzyngier, Zygmunt. 2001. A grammar of Lele. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Lami, Pierre. 1942. Etude succincte de la langue lélé et du dialecte nantchoa. Beirut: Imprimérie Catholique. 197pp.

Lami, Pierre. 1951. Le nombre et le genre dans la langue lélé. In Comptes rendus du première conférence international des africanistes de l'ouest, Dakar 1945, 197-208. Dakar: Inst. Français de l'Afrique Noire (IFAN).

Simons, Pamela. 1982. Nè... be marking in Lele: a cleft construction. Studies in African Linguistics 13. 217-229.

External linksEdit